Cheers to Ethanol and to the Beers of the World

People say that the best way to explore a place is through its food. And while I completely agree, why not pair the food with a local beer?
I have recently returned from a backpacking trip to Indochina. I did all the touristy stuff, took a lot of photos, endured long train and bus rides, ate their food (street food mostly), and yes, you’ve guessed it, drank their beer.
You probably already know about the overly spicy (but delicious) food is Southeast Asia. The Philippines belongs to the same region but saying I’m Asian to the street vendors has been detrimental to my tongue and throat. What better way to quench it than a bottle (or ten) of beer.

Disclaimer: I am neither a sommelier nor a beer connoisseur with a discerning palette. What I can tell you is that I drink (probably a little too much for someone who is already in her late twenties). There was a point when I wanted to be a sommelier but I realized that it can be a bit difficult for me since I do not discriminate against any form of alcoholic drink. I believe that each one is a manna from heaven. (I hope you’re not taking me seriously right now.)

Well technically speaking, it is the same alcohol (ethanol) in every type of booze so you can’t discriminate in terms of the kind of alcohol (ROH as we call it) in your drink. Whether you’re having a martini, a whisky or an absinth, the alcohol in your glass will always be ethanol. Oh, have I mentioned I’m a Chemist? Board certified, registered and all?
Of course, like any other alcoholic drink, beer isn’t purely ethanol (or EtOH as we call it in our world). It’s only about four to six percent EtOH. Ethanol in beer is produced from a fermentation process where carbohydrates (usually from grains) are converted to ethanol, water and carbon dioxide via a metabolic process of a microorganism. What I’m trying to say with these shenanigans is that although it is the same ethanol in every drink, not all ethanol are created equal. Most of beer’s taste comes from the by-products of the process.

Another disclaimer: I’ve never brewed beer before but I’d like to make craft beer in my garage someday. But don’t hold your breath. I don’t have a car and a garage yet so it could take a while.

Pictured here are beers from Cambodia and Vietnam. I also sampled Thailand’s famous Chang beer but inadvertently missed to photograph it.

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Chang beer was a bit fruity. Not at all bitter. I can see why it is the obvious choice for most people. It kinda tasted like a more expensive version of Red Horse.

Angkor and Cambodia beers tasted like San Miguel’s Pale Pilsen with Cambodia beer resembling Pilsen from Palawan (bitter and strong) and Angkor beer resembling Pilsen from Cebu (strong but not that bitter, you can enjoy it sans food pairing).

Saigon beer, both versions, had flavor profiles that are somewhere between that of Heineken’s and San Miguel Premium’s. They really tasted expensive despite the fact that they were the cheapest. I can see how they can be very flexible in terms of food pairings. I tried with a very meaty Banh Mi then another one with a Vietnamese version of beef with broccoli.

If I am to choose a favorite, I would have to go with Angkor Beer. At 50 cents, I think you get the most bang for your buck with that one.

It’s a different story if you put San Mig Pale Pilsen in the mix. I’d choose it over the others. The ones I’ve had during the trip were a bit watered down. They make for good thirst quenchers but they do not taste quite beer-y (sorry the proper adjective escapes me).

Again, I’m not a beer connoisseur. I’m just some girl hoping and trying to explore the world one bottle at a time.

PS This post is EtOH fuelled but I was serious about wanting to be a sommelier in the past and hoping to brew beer in the future. In other words, all this drinking is considered research. Hit the comments if you want to help with the research.

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